The Pentagon announced Wednesday that Tripler Army Medical Center will be one of the military’s initial vaccination sites. “Due to limited availability of initial vaccine doses, the first phase will distribute and administer vaccines at select locations,” a Pentagon press release stated.
The U.S. military has been allocated 43,875 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine across the force that will be available to servicemembers, as well as some dependents, retirees, civilian employees, and “select DoD contract personnel” in accordance with military regulations.
The Pentagon’s COVID Task Force chose initial sites recommended by the military services and the U.S. Coast Guard. Each site had to meet certain criteria, includingthe availability of ultra-cold bulk storage facilities, at least 1,000 “priority personnel” and enough medical personnel to administer vaccines and monitor recipients after the initial and second-doses.
Besides Tripler, the Pentagon also selected twelve locations on the mainland as vaccinations sites. Overseas the military will deliver vaccines to Camp Humphreys in South Korea, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Kadena Air Base in Japan.
“The distribution of the allocated COVID-19 vaccines will begin once the Federal Drug Administration authorizes the COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use and in accordance with Operation Warp Speed guidance,” the Pentagon said.
Hawaii is home to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and bases from each branch of the military. The state has about 42,000 active duty servicemembers, 9,600 National Guardsmen and reservists, and 19,800 civilians as well as thousands of dependents.
Since then Tripler has kept tabs on military cases and shared those numbers with Hawaii health officials to include them in state totals, but it’s unclear what portion of the state’s totals are troops or military family members. These numbers are not secret in Guam, Japan or Korea.
During the summer INDOPACOM commander Adm. Phil Davidson requested that Gov. David Ige rescind a quarantine exemption for military family members traveling to Hawaii on orders. Though the state’s Safe Travel Program now allows incoming travelers to opt out, military leaders are ordering incoming troops to continue quarantining and urging civilian family members to do the same.
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Kevin Knodell covers the military and veterans in Hawaii and the greater Pacific for Civil Beat as a corps member for Report For America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms.